Perhaps in an effort to improve things, the producers of "Shogun, the Musical" will be replacing Peter Karrie -- the lead -- once the show leaves the Kennedy Center after its last performance Saturday.

"It was by mutual agreement," Sam Rudy, a publicist for the production, said yesterday. "And I think that since Peter is playing out the run in Washington, it shows the amicability of the decision."

Karrie, who starred in both "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Les Miserables" in London, had not received raves for his performance as the English ship captain John Blackthorne. "Completely at sea," Megan Rosenfeld wrote of Karrie in The Washington Post, "when called upon to act."

Philip Casnoff will succeed Karrie in the role -- with less than a month to prepare for the Broadway previews beginning Nov. 1 before the musical officially opens to the public again on Nov. 15. "It will be tough," said Rudy, "but you know, he's a professional." Casnoff has a long list of credits and most recently played the American in the musical "Chess" on Broadway.

"It's not really about making the show stronger," Rudy said of the substitution, although in recent weeks many other changes have been made in the production, which opened to complaints about its convoluted plot, wooden acting, incomprehensible lyrics, grandiosity and length (three hours and 32 musical numbers).

Since its opening in September, 25 minutes has been cut from "Shogun" -- with more editing planned before it reaches New York. One musical number has been switched from the second to the first act, and scenic changes have also been made. Some of the dialogue, once sung, is now spoken.

"It's easier to hear and easier to follow the plot," Rudy said, "which is chock-full of events."